World of Warcraft has been seen, since its launch, as the MMO which managed to find the right formula. It blended solo action with player versus players engagements, while also providing a deep and engaging storyline and a good background for all those interested. The pricing model of the game has also been a balanced one. Blizzard chose to focus on monthly subscriptions. It only released one expansion until now and managed to attract more than 10 million players to World in Warcraft.
Other MMOs have tried to push different financial models, mostly based on the idea that the basic subscription is free while some added perks and improvements come if you are willing to pay. There are MMOs which allow you to purchase in game items and there are games where some content is only available to paying customers.
Even if Blizzard at one time said that microtransactions would never be implemented in World of Warcraft, it now seems that the company is studying the possibility of introducing at least some areas in which extra money can buy extra stuff.
WarCry, a site specialized in the minutia of MMOs, reports that J. Allen Brack, who is the production director for WoW, was asked about a new button some beta testers uncovered, which was associated with data files for “Paid Character Customization”.
The Blizzard representative confirmed that the game would incorporate paid character customization, although the exact mechanics have not been worked out yet. It also seems that Diablo 3, in its multiplayer component, will incorporate some monetization options, although no subscriptions will be involved.
Blizzard will probably take care not to introduce paid options which can give one player, who is willing to pay more, an unfair advantage over a player who is only willing to pay for his subscription.